What's the "Flow" or "Path" of PSO2's content?

One thing that was quite daunting in PSO2's beta was just how much content they give you access to almost immediately, and how easy all of that content seemed to be. In PSO and PSP, each difficulty jump was pretty significant, whereas in PSO2 they seem fairly negligible provided you're either a couple levels away from the Hard Mode recommended lvl or have a party of friends to tackle it with. The ease of all the content makes it really hard to decipher what you're meant to be doing and what your limit is, as when all content is clearable it means every activity is always on the table.

So then the main issue with the content not having a clear path or flow then stems from the shear amount the game gives you with little to no direction on what to do first or what to aim for.

Again, PSO was simple in that you beat one area then moved onto the rest, and once you had beaten all areas the next difficulty was a natural step forward. The side quests and content were just extra things to do on top of the main story. It was a simple structure that definitely suffered from a lack of things to do once you reach that 50th or 100th hour of playtime, but it was engaging and easy to understand. PSU/PSP also had a similarly straightforward and easy to understand structure, too, albiet with a bit more meat and complexity.

I know part of PSO2's issue is just almost a decade of feature/content/power creep all combining to create an overwhelming experience, but there really is no path for new players to kind of figure things out efficiently. When my friends asked me what they should be doing all I could really say was "Complete the story up until Alfin starts giving you tutorial missions, and then complete those while just playing whatever."

So yeah, the basic question is simply "What do you recommend new players do while they become acclimated to the game and its insane amount of systems?"

It's definitely true that over the years this game was up, there was a ton of things added and even a bunch of efforts to try and streamline players into doing what they should be doing for a sense of progression has been changed over the years. Very overwhelming to someone new I'd imagine.

The most simplest way to more or less progress right now is just simply: Do all of the story missions as you can, clear out all the Simple/ARKS Missions (the Main Missions basically start you off with the beginner stuff you should do and gradually progress from there) unlock all the free fields by clearing each of them and level as much as you can to obtain the higher difficulties. I would say by the time you hit Super Hard, that's' when you should consider slowing down and learn at least simple gear basics like grinding weapons to +30 and above, +10 a full set of units for your class, optimizing your skill tree if you haven't already etc. and climb from there.

The "Story Missions" are a separate system from ARKS/etc. In their own menu. They go over all of the "EPISODE" content. These are a ton of lore dumps all lined up nicely for you, and they will give you some special Partner Cards (PCs) for your trouble, along with some boosts and SG. Particularly, whenever you were meant to get a matter board from Xion / the episode, you get 20SG in its place, which can lead up to more than a couple hundred free SG for doing EPISODE 1-3.

Doing the episodes can also grant titles if you get S-Rank on the battle missions they have.

In addition, the end game is very much similar to that of FFXIV, though with slightly more variety kind of. (Like, super slightly, not much.) You do content, get a special currency item, turn it in for good gear.